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Kashmir Autumn Festival and its Message

kashmir autumn festival, jammu and kashmir, pari mahal, srinagar, pahalgam, gulmarg

 

Shikara rides, snow-capped mountains, musical evenings, and cruises – this is Kashmir Autumn Festival for you!

There is a negative perception about Kashmir which has affected the tourism industry and the local Kashmiris for years. For instance, take the case of skiing guide, Farooq Bhatt, who has been supplying jackets, shoes and skiing gears on hire from the past two decades to the tourists in Gulmarg. He travels from the nearby Tangmarg to serve the guests from around the world. He also guides and helps the tourists to ski near the gondola (state-run cable car service) in Gulmarg. Over the years, his income during the seasonal visit of tourists has drastically reduced from Rs. 1000/ day to Rs. 400/ day.

 

kashmir autumn festival, jammu and kashmir, pari mahal, srinagar, pahalgam, gulmarg

 

The department of tourism of Jammu and Kashmir therefore organised a familiarisation tour to boost the morale of people like Farooq as well as others who are involved with tourism & hospitality industry of the state. The tour, lovingly called as the Kashmir Autumn Festival, was held during the mesmerizing autumn from 25th October 2018 to 27th Oct 2018. It was mainly aimed for writers, bloggers, artistes, entrepreneurs, Instagrammers and government officials from across the country. The objective of the festival was to change the negative perception about the picturesque Jammu and Kashmir valley and woo back our loving tourists.

Around 100 guests graced the three day Kashmir Autumn Festival and were acquainted with the breathtaking beauty of Srinagar, Pahalgam and Gulmarg. They were introduced to the myriad shades of valley, its people, traditional and popular music, an array of mouth-watering Kashmiri food and warm hospitality of the locals.

 

Day 1: Srinagar

Beginning with an inauguration ceremony at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC), overlooking Dal Lake adding to the charm, Rigzin Samphel (Secretary Tourism of J&K) addressed the guests with a warm welcome. He mentioned that “Kashmir is not unsafe for tourists” and factually told everyone that there has been a 40 percent rise in international tourists. Post his speech, all guests were taken on a heritage tour from Pari Mahal, Chashme Shahi, Nishant Bagh and then finally ending with a cruise on Dal Lake.

 

kashmir autumn festival, jammu and kashmir, pari mahal, srinagar, pahalgam, gulmarg

 

Day 2: Pahalgam

While mentioning the facts at Pahalgam Club, the chief executive officer of Pahalgam introduced the guests to the ground level problem. He told them that Pahalgam accounts for 70 percent of Kashmir’s tourist attraction and yet we have only received seven lakh tourists this year as compared to eleven lakhs in 2011.

 

kashmir autumn festival, jammu and kashmir, pari mahal, srinagar, pahalgam, gulmarg

 

He toned down the seriousness of the matter and introduced the guests to the warmth of local people who offered them tea, local bakery and scrumptious lunch of gushtaba, rogan josh, lotus stem curry, chicken and fish at the serene Pahalgam Golf Course.

Post lunch, the tour headed to witness the dreamy Aru Valley, a haven for trekkers where time comes to a standstill in this far-off corner of Kashmir. As the day progressed, guests were amazed by the affection and warm hospitality of local venders and small traders, the reality of lack of income and opportunity visible on their faces.

 

Day 3: Gulmarg

Gulmarg, one of the most magnificent destinations in Jammu and Kashmir, was saved for the last day for our guests. The town has been welcoming tourists since colonial times with its colder climes, long walks, treks and golf course skiing.

On the final day at the Gulmarg Golf Club, guests of the tour were served with Harissa (a type of Haleem), kebabs, Kashmiri breads and different types of sauces with fries under the blue sky. Lunch at this serene place was a traditional affair followed by hot sips of Kahwah.

 

kashmir autumn festival, jammu and kashmir, pari mahal, srinagar, pahalgam, gulmarg

 

A local manager, Abdul malik, of Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) came face to face with the guests about the fall in tourists over the years. He mentioned that Gulmarg is known to provide peace to every mind that visits and a comfy stay at some of the best hotels of the state.

In this way, the wonderful three-day trip came to an end with delectable dinner, music and cheerfulness at a hotel in Gulmarg.

 

Through this article, we, The Kashmiri Life, call you to visit the magnificent Jammu and Kashmir and experience the warm hospitality of locals. Your visit means livelihood to many of our traders and vendors. Kashmir is safe as ever and people are welcoming as they always were. Visit us!

Kashmir – the perfect destination for your monsoon vacation

Kashmir – The Perfect Destination for Your Monsoon Vacation

Celebrating Monsoon Showers

From the mountains to the sea, the rain awakens every landscape and enhances the beauty of nature. Rain refreshes the mind and the soul. Monsoon in India is the most beautiful season and much-awaited for. Monsoon in India is not only about romancing the rain; it is an answer to the farmer’s prayers, a celebration of festivals and a reason to make special monsoon delicacies.

Just like the rest of India, the misty Himalayan range looks magnificent during rains. And if you’re desperately planning to run away from the crawling traffic and flooded roads with potholes, to rejoice joyous moods of green meadows, colorful flowers, chirping birds, lakes and rivers brimming with sparkling water and white and grey clouds painting the sky then Kashmir is where you ought to be!

That being said, there is also no official monsoon in Kashmir, but rainy days come in July and August turning ‘Jannat’ from beautiful to mind-blowingly gorgeous. The silver-grey clouds hanging on the lofty Himalayan peaks, the gurgling river flowing through the mountain towns, drops of water hanging from the evergreen pine branches after they’ve enjoyed the showers gives it a picture-perfect postcard setting.

Fall in Love with Disarmingly Charming Jammu & Kashmir, this Monsoon!

Jammu and Kashmir

The weather here is perfect – not humid, not cold nor warm. During the dry hours of the day take a short walk with the light breeze around the river Jhelum and exceed every expectation that you had. Browse the boutiques on the main road and discover a vibrant range of Sarees, Suits, Kurtis, Dresses and accents. Lend the cloudy grey skies some bright and beautiful colors of your own to spruce up the rainy days. Do not forget to pick up fabrics that are nothing less than perfect for the rainy days. By the time you are done shopping a gentle rain drizzle starts on your, smell the cool and damp air and unlike most locals if you’ve failed to remember to carry an umbrella with you, head back to the hotel. While the drizzle breaks into a heavy downpour after half an hour, grab a chair and sit beside the window overlooking the river and you can just spend hours watching dark clouds slowly turning the perfectly blue sky grey, adding a layer of mystery around. Pen down few lines as the rhythm of the falling rain brings out the hidden poet in you or just simply stare at all the beauty around you. A good friend would be a steaming hot cup of ‘Kahwa’ along with some crisp hot ‘pakodas’. Kahwa builds immunity against water-borne diseases and would double your happiness as you enjoy the downpour of rain by the window.

What is a cloudy, rainy day without a cup of coffee? Venture out of your hotel in the evening to a nearby café to enjoy the cozy and beautiful combination. Goodfellas café on the banks of the Jhelum would be a perfect place that offers a blend of perfect food, art and entertainment. Brighten up the rainy days with freshly brewed coffee and the café music playlist. Keep up the monsoon spirit and increase resistance by munching on dry fruits as healthy between-meal fillers.
When the night starts to fall, the bed starts to call. Tuck yourself in the bed with a book, or a soothing music and get a good night sleep with the rain pouring in the background.

Dal Lake, Kashmir

Take a Shikara ride on a rainy day and let the fresh air blow your hair slowly and the wet wind kiss your cheeks. Feel like a model while nature does the photography! Nature accepts you instantly; it welcomes you in like one of her own. Need not worry, the cute curtains on the sides will keep you fully covered, come rain or sunshine. Peaceful and serene!

Mustard fields, Kashmir

Get lost in the breathtaking Himalayan panorama, tall conifers, acres and acres of saffron and golden mustard fields, romantic houseboats and overall sublime appeal of Kashmir.

Irrespective of water logging, wet times, these are the much awaited flavours that you will crave in this season.

kashmir travelogue, travel to kashmir, gulmarg

First-hand travelogue of a journey to Kashmir (Srinagar, Yousmarg & Gulmarg)

 

Gulmarg, Yousmarg, Srinagar, Kashmir, Kashmiriyat

And I am back with the travelogue of my friend’s recent visit to Srinagar, Yousmarg and Gulmarg. After unravelling her travel to Srinagar & Yousmarg, I had saved her experience of Gulmarg to be told separately!Gulmarg is undoubtedly heaven on earth- A piece of land quietly spelled to evoke souls of angels by Allah. The rainbows that stretch along its horizon look like halos on the heads of angels. A beauty incomparable; can only be witnessed with the eyes of soul.

After her adventures in Srinagar & Yousmarg for three and a half days, my friend began her ride to serene Gulmarg in a taxi in the second half of her third day in Kashmir.

road to gulmarg, gulmarg

{बिट्टीनाईदूरीए
चूमज़राईबामराइयो
क्याकरहूथाम
ज़ारज़राईबामराइयो

I hummed as my cab driver sang along with me and the tape. The song Do Jahan was stuck in my mind from the first time I heard it in the movie Haider! Even though the song is little sad and about separation, the Kashmiri bit leaves me calm and at peace.

 

That day with 2 ‘O’Clock on the watch,

Meadows and moors ran across, The song made me cry.

For I was going away from Srinagar, Separation hit my eye!

I hummed, I calmed- His soothing voice did the charm.

This was the most beautiful road I had ever bestowed,

Green and Blue and White- lay on the crescent road.

 

We stopped at Kolahoi Green Heights Hotel in Gulmarg.

kolahoi greens

 

Immense green land below my feet

And grandeur blue sky above my head;

Long trees,

And sights of snow covered mountain peaks…

 

is the first expression of Gulmarg in my eyes, captured like a picture. We reached around four o’clock and were tired already. The hotel served us with grand warm rooms and Kahwah. We already had our lunch so we enjoyed the apple crisps along with tea. The ambience of Kolahoi was as warm as the Kashmiri people managing it. After some rest at the hotel, we decided to go and take a walk in the greenery outside.
While in Gulmarg, one does not have to be worried about where, when, how, or why to explore it. Just resume out of your hotel, and start strolling. Every street contours the essence of Kashmiriyat in it as people walking in their long warm clothes smile at you affectionately. We walked through the roads that were surrounded with trees and small weeds hidden in grass. I plucked some and kept them in my journal. I was keen to learn their names & store Gulmarg in its bits.

My father and sister had rented bicycles and me and my mother decided to walk. (You can rent them in Gulmarg as per hour or per day basis, depending upon your need). On our way, we visited a children’s park, church and temple.

 

As it grew dark,

Gulmarg lit up in household lights.

Like fireflies- On a moonlit night.

The sky turned black,

The blue hay spread along sides.

Stars twinkled, moon smiled,

The clouds hid them behind blue eyes.

 

So far I had only witnessed, noon and night in the arms of Gulmarg. The next day I woke up at 6:30 am when my father was sitting at the edge of the window in our room, a sun-kissed ray spread on his shoulder. He looked in the distant somewhere at something. I was sure I got my genes of dreaming from him! We decided to go out for a walk.

The trees were lit with rays of sunlight

Scattering their arms wide, they touched my eyes,

One ray at a time!

Misty blue sky, hay sitting on flowers nearby,

And bumble bees singing in delight.

Such was the ride,

With breeze on my face and mud in my feet lie.

Apparently, we got lost. But thanks to the really kind people of Gulmarg, they not only told us the way back to our hotel, but one of the baba (Elderly man) walked us back as he was going somewhere nearby. On our way back he sang Kashmiri folks, which I could barely understand. The melody of his voice transcended me to the world of a nightingale singing loud from its beak while I sat and listened to it. His voice was coarse and probably that’d be its beauty.

When we reached, my mother was turning blue and red as we were supposed to get ready for the visit to Gondola. We got ready in minutes, had our breakfast and went along quietly, without meeting her eyes (laughs). And yeah, the food was delicious.

gondola, gulmarg

The details on Gondola adventure are easily available on internet so I’ll skip the description and jump on to the best part. It is divided into two phases and both of them give completely different views of the valley. While phase 1 was extremely beautiful and picturesque, phase 2 was altogether snow covered even in the month of June. The authorities let you stay there only for two to three hours hence decided to make most of it.

From phase 2, we walked to Alpather Lake located in between of Aparwath peaks. My hands were freezing and it was the best feeling I had ever got so far in my life. The lake, except in June & July, is frozen throughout the year. I closed my eyes to imagine a frozen lake before me. But the beauty of its water had made its abode in my heart already.

alpather lake

After coming back from Gondola, I was extremely tired. So I sat in the balcony and began settling my journal which was overflowing with weeds and flowers where I slept unaware of where I was. Next day I woke up in my bed (My dad must have tucked me in), and it was time to leave. We had a flight back from Srinagar Airport around 1 pm.

 

I ran out for the last time on that trip,

Breathed in all the air I could,

And whispered, Goodbye,

I promise to come back again!}

That’s where her beautiful journey ends. She surely flew back to her home, but she left a piece of her heart in Kashmir. Her poetic romance with Kashmir, made me see a whole new Kashmir through her eyes despite the fact that I have lived here all my life. As I conclude I’d take some liberty and say Kashmir is where the Heart is.

At Kashmiri Life, we try to explore the beauty, culture and traditions of Kashmir is different ways. The experience shared by my friend gave us a chance to enlighten our readers with a poetic insight of our beautiful valley. I thank my friend for sharing her intellect with me so I could share it with my readers.

Kashmir BLOG

First-hand travelogue of a journey to Kashmir (Srinagar, Yousmarg & Gulmarg)

kashmir travelogue, travel to kashmir, gulmarg

 

Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast,

Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast”,

repeated Jahangir, after Amir Khusro, when he saw the scenic beauty of Kashmir.

My friend recently visited Kashmir. See her experience unwind in the serene towns like Srinagar, Yousmarg and Gulmarg as she has a unique description for each one of them-

{I  have always been fascinated by Kashmir, its blue skies and the stories of its beauty. I was told that my parents took me to Kashmir as a child but not that I remember any of it now. And, recently I got a chance to visit Srinagar and Gulmarg with my parents, again. It was a trip of 6 days and 5 nights.

Days I will never forget,

Nights that still breeze on my cheeks.

It must be the charm of that morning,

And I fell in love with Kashmir-

Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen…

 

kASHMIR TRAVELOGUE

 

We spent three and a half days in Srinagar and the other two and a half in Gulmarg (I remember that our trip advisor suggested that we spend one day in Gulmarg, but we gladly spent two), the best decision ever, for its beauty, can’t be seen in a day according to me. Initially, I was totally unaware of the actual presence of romanticism in Kashmir. All the information I had was either googled or someone else’s perspective distorting my vision of Kashmir. In this way I felt twice removed from reality. The first day, we landed at Srinagar International Airport and took a taxi to our hotel, Metropolis, in Srinagar.

It was in the ride from airport to hotel,

The one I could translate in prospects.

And all that I could feel was breeze ,

Flowing gently on my cheeks.

The birds chirping up on the trees.

Sun rays kissing my bodice.

I had transcended to a dream,

No car- no hotel came in between.

And bang, we were there. My enigma was disturbed, but soon warm acquaintance of people, and the Kahwah they offered embraced me back. All I needed to do was to crash in the comfy bed of hotel for some time to regain all the energy to explore ‘Jannat’ on Earth.

 

Metropolis srinagar

 

After having an absolutely delicious breakfast of Kashmiri breads called Girda & Choat, omelettes, some more Kahwah and fruits like cherries, peach es and apples; we went out to see the gardens around our hotel. The nearest was Tulip garden, unfortunately closed in June. Tulips bloom best in April and May and I was a little sad that we came in June. But then we went to other gardens, Chashma Shahi Garden, Botanical gardens and many more that showcases the equally serene landscapes. We walked to these places and I was busy collecting different types of wild weeds and flowers along the way.

In the evening, we went to Dal Lake where my jaw dropped to my shoe when I saw Shikaras dressed in colours, flowers and mystique. It felt like I already knew this place.

 

Shikara, dal lake, srinagar

 

We floated in Dal, with several other Shikaras,

Reds and blues and yellows and greens,

I wore blue, and others were drenched in sun-set beams.

He hummed a song I couldn’t understand,

But his smile, voice and rhythm put me at peace.

Chattered a woman, and another, and a third,

Selling and sailing together.

He hit another splash, and we moved forward,

Soon we were in the middle of Gods shower.

“Neeche utar lo didi”, said he.

The most commercial Shikaras are available near Ghat 2 that take you to other side where there are restaurants, bookstores etc. While my parents moved to some handicrafts shop, I entered a bookstore called, Gulshan Bookstore, a one of its kind bookshop-library on the famous Dal Lake. It turned out to be the most interesting place for me. It was a hub of Kashmiri literature along with others. It is a perfect place all book lovers. We spent a good time in the market around.

When we came back it was already night and after dinner we had a sound sleep in the comfy quilts of our hotel. My wish of having some Kahwah before going to bed was fulfilled by the ‘kaka’ there, who was also pleased at my request.

Next morning we took a taxi to Yousmarg, a valley two and a half hours away from Srinagar.

 

The last half hour of our drive was most scenic,

Mountains, peaks, trees and my friend breeze.

And then there was a green field,

Spread wide below the blue sky: I shouted,

Wait, atleast let me try.

 

1

 

I stepped down into an Almond farm. I requested the farmer there to let me take some almonds and he was way too pleased. He took me inside and had me choose almonds myself. I took a handful and we moved ahead. I didn’t forget to thank and bid farewell to the farmer.

In Yousmarg, there are three treks- Cherry Field, Doodh Ganga Lake and Nilnag Lake. One can either take horses or can walk up to them. My father and I decided to take horses and my mother and sister walked and we only went to Doodh Ganga.

 

doodh ganga

 

(If you go there too, ask for the horses named Hira and Dhanu. They have the sweetest caretakers. One of them is old and another one young. They will keep you engaged in talks and are extremely careful. Or maybe I am just being partial to my experience (blush).)

On arrival at the Doodh Ganga Lake, I was astonished at the purity of its water, so clean that one can actually drink from it,  as I did. “The water supply of Srinagar goes out from here”, said the horsemen seeing me awestruck by the beauty.

My mother and sister reached after us. And we sat there in solace,

Sharing fruits, Kahwah and almonds we plucked on our way.

It was the picnic spot of my dream.

Blue and Green,

Just like a dream.

I wished we could have checked out the other two tracks but my mother had a back pain. After a while we went back, down to Yousmarg and then to hotel. That night I slept without supper. I wanted to dream!

Next day I woke up curled up in sunlight that stretched from the window to my bed. It was time to move to Gulmarg and however beautiful Srinagar was, Gulmarg was where I wanted to reside. We dressed up, ate, packed and went to Lal Chowk, the most famous market of Srinagar. We bought Pashminas, Kesar, gifts for our family and drove away to Gulmarg, a ride of two hours from Srinagar.}

 

road to gulmarg

 

Wait, I have to stop you here. The journey to Gulmarg will begin in the second half of the article. Let the beauty of what you read be in the waiting for it.
Please do continue with the rest of the travelogue to get the different perspective that my friend has towards her experience in Gulmarg as I have equal inclination to portray it in the best way.

Let us together make it worth our while.

 

TULIP

Asia’s Largest Tulip Fest Starts From 1st April in Jammu and Kashmir!

kashmiri life | Kashmir Culture , food

 

 

Many of us might not know that the Asia’s largest Tulip garden is in India. Yes, the largest Tulip garden is situated right near the tranquil Dal Lake of Jammu and Kashmir. Spread over a land of about 12 hectares, this Tulip garden is named after the only female prime minister of India as Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden.

The Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden, earlier known as Model Floriculture Centre, was established by Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir as an effort to boost the floriculture industry and eco-tourism in Jammu and Kashmir.
Tulip Garden Srinagar

The Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden, earlier known as Model Floriculture Centre

Encircled by the two other famous gardens (Nishat Bagh and Chashma Shahi garden) of Jammu and Kashmir, the Tulip garden, opened in 2007, is located at the foothills of Zabarwan range.

The Asia’s largest Tulip garden offers at least 70 varieties of Tulips for tourists to wonder at. It acts as a magnet to attract thousands of tourists from all over the world especially, in the blooming months of the flowers. The best time to visit the garden is from March-May but April welcomes the maximum number of tourists following the Tulip Festival. Yes, the entire state of Jammu celebrates this different type of Holi with the different colors of Tulips every year since 2007.

Tulip Garden Jammu and Kashmir Srinagar

Tulip garden offers at least 70 varieties of Tulips for tourists

The Indira Gandhi Tulip garden which is Asia’s largest Tulip garden does not only grows Tulip but several rose beds are also cultivated, which adds to the beauty of the garden. A Tulip flower is usually 6 cm long and each Tulip consists of three petals and three sepals. The garden cultivates various shades of Tulips and some of the popular shades are orange, yellow, white, red, pink, blue and purple. These different shades of Tulips forms all the colors of a rainbow, which is the most mesmerizing sight for the tourists.

largest Tulip garden

Asia’s largest Tulip garden is in India

The Tulip festival does not only boost floriculture and tourism in Kashmir but the Kashmiri culture too. A number of cultural events take place during the festivity and different types of handicrafts are showcased as an exhibition in the festival. It is much delightful when the tourists get tired and hungry after walking on the route of 12 hectare Tulip garden, they get the privilege to taste the delicious Kashmiri cuisines at the food court.

Asia's largest Tulip garden

 Kashmiri artists perform at the Asia’s largest Tulip garden

Farooq Ahmad Shah, secretary of Tourism and Floriculture of Jammu and Kashmir said, this year the mega Tulip festival will be part of an event Bahaar-e-Kashmir which means spring in Kashmir. The festival will start on April 1 and will continue till another 15 days at the Asia’s largest Tulip garden in Srinagar.

So, don’t miss out the biggest flower festival in Asia right in Jammu and Kashmir. Go, book your tickets to Srinagar in April and enjoy the mesmerising beauty of Kashmir and have lots of entertainment with the folk music of the state.